I have this vague sense of being sucked in by someone’s clever marketing-by-renaming trick when I make or eat banana 'bread'. I have the same feeling about muffins, which in their common modern form (not the traditional yeast-raised ‘English’ muffin) are just an excuse to eat cake for breakfast. I hasten to add that this fleeting feeling does not interfere with my enjoyment of the said ‘breads’ however.
Without getting involved in a convoluted argument about what constitutes ‘bread’, I would be interested to know your opinions. Is it only bread if it is leavened with yeast - which would make Irish soda bread not real bread? Or does it depend on the amount of sugar – and if so, how much (a teaspoon to start the yeast bubbling OK?). Or the fat (lots of butter in a lot of muffins)? The absence of fruit, nuts, spices …… ? Must it be baked, or are Chinese steamed buns also ‘bread’?. You get my definition drift?
There is probably no debate about bread being a starch-based food – but which starch? There is no debate about wheat being the best source of gluten, or the fact that gluten is what gives ‘bread’ its structure and texture, which makes wheat bread the ‘best’ bread from that point of view - it is the Gold Standard, so to speak. Nevetheless, many folk around the world are happy with, and even prefer, bread made from other grains and seeds such as rye, barley, oats, corn etc.
Bananas are starchy too, so it is not surprising that bananas can be used to make non-cakey banana bread. The trick, it appears, is not to use the mashed fruit, but to use banana flour – and Boy! Would I like to get my hands on some. I tried to find a complete recipe for banana bread using banana flour, but only managed to find general advice about using it to substitute for an amount (about a quarter?) of the wheat flour.
Banana flour is made by drying and grinding the green fruit – not an easy operation for the home cook. It was advocated as a healthy food in several books of invalid cookery in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, such as Mrs Rorer’s Diet for the Sick (1914). The well-known Mrs. Rorer says “banana flour is made from under-ripe bananas, thoroughly dried and ground. It is exceedingly good for diabetic, rheumatic, and gouty patients. It may be made into mush, or gems, or small cakes.”
Another ‘healthy’ (in this case vegetarian) cookery book, Reform Cookery: Up-to-date Health Cookery for the Twentieth Century (1909) by Jean Oliver Mill gives a recipe for Banana Flour Scones, which is the closest I could get to a banana bread recipe today – and they sound absolutely delicious.
Banana Flour Scones
1 lb. banana flour, 2 oz. butter or “Nutter”, 2 oz. sugar, 1 teaspoonful baking powderd, milk. Mix flour – the banana flour sold by the lb. is best – sugar, and baking powder. Rub in butter, make into a light dough with milk. Cut into small scones, and bake in a good oven about 15 minutes.
These scones are exceedingly good, and quite different from those made with ordinary flour. They may be varied by adding a few Sultanas or a beaten egg.
P. S In case you want a reminder about ‘scones’ – go here, and here
Quotation for the Day
Yeah, I like cars and basketball. But you know what I like more? Bananas.